Bärbel Kofler, Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Assistance at the Federal Foreign Office, issued the following statement today (8 November) prior to her departure for Qatar and the United Arab Emirates:
The countries of the Gulf region have been criticised for the undignified working and living conditions faced by foreign workers, whether with regard to the construction industry or to the treatment of domestic workers. The extreme heat in the Gulf region has already claimed a large number of lives at major construction sites such as the World Cup stadiums in Qatar and the mega infrastructure projects in the United Arab Emirates. Each further delay to improving workplace safety costs human lives. In Qatar, reforms of labour and social law were adopted a few weeks ago that could result in the widespread abolition of the Kafala system in the Arab world under which workers are strongly beholden to their employers. In my discussions, I will call for these steps to be implemented so that they have a tangible and rapid impact on the actual working and living conditions of workers, particularly in the low-wage sector. I urge those in positions of responsibility in government and enterprise to comply with human rights due diligence and to create humane working and living conditions.
The Gulf states are recruiting foreign workers supraregionally to support the construction and operation of their infrastructure as well as the implementation of their development plans. This applies both to executives, skilled workers, engineers, experts and teachers in the areas of public administration, education, the petrochemical industry and companies, as well as to unskilled low-wage workers employed primarily in the construction industry and in the simple service sector. Accident and safety regulations, especially in the low-wage sector, in which the majority of guest workers are foreign employees, need to be brought into line with international standards in the region.